CVC to sell F1 by July 2015

22/07/2014
NEWS STORY

Formula One is on track to get a new owner next year and Bernie Ecclestone isn't planning to buy it according to reports in the Telegraph and American business magazine Forbes by Christian Sylt.

For the past few years speculation has run wild about the sale of F1 with rumoured buyers ranging from Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation media empire to Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala. The origin of the talk is that the sport's single largest shareholder CVC is a private equity firm meaning that it used other people's money to buy its stake so will have to sell up at some stage to give them a return. The big question is when this will happen and at last we have an answer.

CVC's buyout of F1 in 2006 was driven by its co-founder Donald Mackenzie who is known to be a racing fan. It controls F1 through a 35% stake in the sport and the buyout was funded with two loans. The Royal Bank of Scotland provided 645m ($1.1bn) whilst 566.3m ($965.6m) came from CVC's Fund IV. The money in this fund is provided by a range of investors and unless the majority of them agree otherwise, CVC has to sell F1 by the end of July 2015.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the deadline is disclosed in the memorandum for Fund IV which was sent to potential investors in it before it closed on 29 July 2005. It states that the term of the fund is 10 years with three one year extensions if consent is given by the majority of the investors.

It reflects comments given by Ecclestone to Sylt in the paddock at the British Grand Prix where Sylt was representing Pitpass. "The last thing Donald wants to do is to get out but I think the way their company is structured eventually they have got to move on. That's what they do with all their companies," said Ecclestone.

CVC planned to exit F1 by floating its shares on the Singapore stock exchange in 2012 but the financial crisis put the brakes on this. It is now understood to be in talks with media mogul John Malone's Liberty Group and Discovery Communications which together want to buy 49% of F1. A further 12.3% of the sport is on the market as it is owned by the estate of bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Another potential buyer is reportedly Ecclestone himself. Earlier in July he was quoted by the Daily Express as saying "it is possible" he could buy back F1 from CVC. "Our company has been a very good investment for CVC and it would be a very good investment for me or anyone who owned it," he added.

However, he told {i]Forbes that circumstances have changed since then and said "if it was a good deal I would do it but it's not something I'm actively planning."

It's no surprise that Ecclestone would take F1 back if the price was right. Since CVC bought F1 it has netted 2.6bn ($4.4bn) from share sales and dividend payments making it one of the private equity firm's best-performing investments.

CVC has already held F1 for far longer than usual to make the most of its cash generating power. This is also revealed in the memorandum which states that "CVC typically targets a three to five year investment holding period."

Ecclestone says that CVC has put a 5.9bn ($10bn) price tag on F1 but it remains to be seen whether it will get what it wants.

A source close to the situation says "CVC have multiplied their investment several times and I think the reason why a sale is not happening is that the price they are seeking to achieve is not something the market is prepared to pay at the moment. The market is buying 35%, not a majority, and the opportunity to have maybe two, three or four directors on the board."

Ecclestone's future is one of the questions hanging over F1 as he turns 84 this year and is currently defending bribery charges in Munich. German prosecutors have accused Ecclestone and his Bambino family trust of paying a 26m ($44m) bribe to former banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to steer the sale of F1 to CVC in 2006. Ecclestone denies the charges and says he paid Gribkowsky to stop him carrying out insinuations that he would make unfounded allegations about his tax affairs.

In January Ecclestone stepped down from the board of F1 when it was announced that he would be put on trial. However, he still runs the sport on a day to day basis and says "CVC have been very good to me. I have no problem at all with them. I do what I want to do and they support me."

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 22/07/2014
Copyright © Pitpass 2002 - 2021. All rights reserved.